Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Parent’s Guide to Edible Marijuana Abuse

Edible marijuana products have been legalized for adult use in many states and have become more diverse and available. Smoking marijuana isn’t the only way that teens can abuse this drug. As the popularity of cannabis products grows, edible products containing the active chemicals in marijuana are becoming widely available to young people. Any food or beverage containing THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, can produce psychoactive side effects that are similar to the high of smoking pot. In fact, some users claim that they get a more intense, prolonged high from edible marijuana. Edibles appeal to teenagers for a variety of reasons:

  • They are perceived as safer than smokable marijuana or hash.
  • They don’t leave a telltale odor of smoke on clothes or belongings.
  • They come in fun, tasty forms, like brownies or cookie dough.
  • They can easily be smuggled in purses, backpacks or lunch bags.

Because medical marijuana is often administered in the form of edible food products, edibles may be seen as relatively safe and harmless compared to marijuana cigarettes. However, ingesting marijuana orally can have the same dangerous side effects, including cognitive problems, memory loss, depression, panic attacks and addiction.

Forms of Edible Marijuana

Edible marijuana products are made using the buds, leaves or resin of the cannabis plant. These substances, which contain THC, are blended into a wide variety of food products, including:

  • Cookies (also known as “space cakes”)
  • Brownies
  • Muffins
  • Pies
  • Fudge
  • Chocolate truffles
  • Fruit candies
  • Butter
  • Sparkling drinks
  • Liqueurs

As a fat-soluble substance, THC can easily be blended into baked goods or candies. The taste of marijuana is not always noticeable, which makes these products even more appealing — and more dangerous — to young users.

Dangers of Ingesting Edibles

The active chemicals in cannabis are absorbed more slowly through the digestive tract, which means that the effects may be felt more slowly. This gives young users more time to ingest other substances, such as alcohol, hallucinogens or prescription narcotics, before they realize that they’re high on THC.

According to the The New York Times, many parents and teachers are concerned that snack foods and desserts containing marijuana may be a gateway to harder drugs for teens. And because edibles can be so enticing, younger children are at risk of accidental overdose. JAMA Pediatrics reports that after 2009, when medical marijuana was legalized in Colorado, 14 children received emergency treatment for marijuana exposure at a Colorado hospital. Eight of these patients had to be admitted to the hospital from the emergency room, and seven cases involved the accidental ingestion of edible marijuana products. The short-term side effects of edible marijuana use include:

  • Lethargy
  • Confusion
  • Abnormal muscle movements
  • Breathing problems
  • Anxiety

With continued use, edible marijuana can interfere with learning, decision-making and memory. For adolescents, the cognitive side effects of marijuana abuse can interfere with their dreams of a college education or a rewarding career.

Rehab for Marijuana Abuse

Edible marijuana use in teenagers should be taken just as seriously as the abuse of any other psychoactive drug. Once teens get used to ingesting marijuana, they may experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit using without help. Withdrawal can be an uncomfortable, frightening experience, and relapse in this stage is common. Drug treatment programs for teenagers provide detox and rehab services in a safe, supervised environment. Recovery services like psychotherapy, experiential therapies are core components of a comprehensive treatment program.

Muir Woods offers comprehensive treatment programs for boys ages 12 to 17 at our exclusive residential treatment facility in Northern California. We encourage you to call us to find out how our intensive, individualized recovery plans can help you and your son create the meaningful, healthy life he deserves.